By Shayna Thorn
“Just because a condition is common doesn’t mean it’s a quick fix,” cautions Vanguard dermatologist Dr. Wynn Kao.
“People assume that because a condition is not life threatening, it should be easy to cure. But that’s not how it works with skin.”
When teens or even adults in their thirties or forties are plagued with acne, no one can blame them for not only seeking medical help but for hoping that a skilled dermatologist will banish the condition forever. Less conscientious doctors might raise expectations by promising instant remedies. Dr. Kao would rather have the patient understand that while skin conditions can certainly be resolved, it is often patience and persistent attentiveness that get results rather than miracle panaceas.
“Most of our tools are good ones and they are always being improved. But there is no one size that fits all and the cure takes place over time.”
Prescribing the appropriate acne medicine involves the same kind of trial and error approach that other physicians follow in controlling more dangerous chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure or depression.
“We start out with a lesser strength prescription with the understanding that depending on the individual, we will need to adjust it.”
Treating acne, Dr. Kao takes into account a patient’s genetic givens.
“If a teenager is accompanied by a biological parent who is still plagued with acne, than I know I am dealing with a challenging case.”
Stress is also often a factor but even here individual experiences vary.
“There is a difference between someone who is always stressed out and someone who is coping with a periodic shift in hormones that causes stress-related, monthly breakouts.”
Dr. Kao’s Five Tips for Minimizing Acne
- Reduce your intake of sugar: While dietary factors may contribute to only 15% to 20% of acne eruptions, it’s a good idea to enlist everything you can on the side of improving your condition. It may be hard to show a direct cause and effect, but high glucose consumption is known to lead to inflammation so keeping away from the refined carbohydrates in many snacks can help.
- Avoid skim milk: Drinking skim milk often has an adverse effect on acne. Try going back to whole milk and watch for improvement.
- Keep your skin well moisturized. Acne sufferers often have oil excess but that does not mean you should let your skin dry out. Ask your dermatologist for the right products to use for washing and hydrating your skin type.
- Prescribed Retin-A can help: While some less concentrated Retin-A gels are available over the counter, results are best when a dermatologist works with you over time to find the right formula for your skin.
- Consider phototherapy: This acne treatment, also known as a light box or Isolaz, can make a dramatic difference in four to six treatments. Watch for more on this in future blog posts.
A lifelong New Yorker, Dr. Karen Hammerman graduated with honors from Barnard College and earned her MD at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn. A ten-year veteran at Vanguard Dermatology’s Forest Hills location, Dr. Hammerman will now be taking patients at the new location at 115 Broadway in the Financial District.
“At SUNY Downstate, I was privileged to work with Dr. Alan R. Shalita, world-renowned expert in the treatment of acne, specifically cystic acne treatment with Acutane and the management of hormonal acne in female patients. I treat all dermatological conditions and patients of all ages, skin cancer detection and cosmetic dermatology. But I’m particularly passionate about the cosmetic side of my field.
This is an exciting time for cosmetic dermatology. We have non-invasive treatments that are quick, virtually painless, and require very little recovery time. These consist mainly of neurotoxins like Botox and Dysport and the hyaluronic fillers like Juvederm and Restylane. These allow us to give patients a natural and younger look without having to undergo surgery.
My goal when approaching aesthetic patients is to make people look younger, like their younger selves. I’ll often have patients bring in pictures from when they were a few years younger and have them point out things that have changed or that they’ve lost. We’ll go through the different ways we can restore that youthful look. I also specialize in laser skin resurfacing, laser hair removal and laser treatment of pigment and vascular lesions.
. . . and fashion!
Discover another side of Dr. Hammerman, who was recently featured on the “Excessories Expert” blog as its first #GirlCrush, “crush-worthy gals who are both accessorized and accomplished.” As part of her profile there, Dr. Hammerman shared tips on fashion accessories and also revealed her top three secrets for great skin:
- See the light. A lot of patients come to me for treatment of under eye dark circles and puffiness. While injecting hyaluronic fillers to the area can lead to dramatic improvement, there are some at home remedies for those who don’t want to undergo a procedure. Placing a cool object, like cold black tea bags, on the eyes can reduce the puffiness and darkness. It’s an old wives tale, but it works! For shadows under the eyes, I tell my patients to use lightening agents like kojic acid, arbutin and retinol. Favorites: TNS illuminating eye cream and Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair eye cream.
- Retin-A is your best friend. Prescription Retin-A or retinol (over the counter) is still one of the most important discoveries in dermatology over the last 50 years. Both forms prevent wrinkles, improve pigmentation and texture, and treat acne. It takes a while to see results, but the payoff is huge.
- Pour on the protection. Sunscreen is really the best way to keep your skin useful. Use products containing “zinc or avobenzone” listed in the active ingredients list. Apply daily, no matter what the cloud coverage is. The effects wear off within three hours so reapplication is key. Favorites: EltaMD UV Daily SPF 40 sunscreen and Neutrogena Ultra Sheer.
Read about the other members of the expert team at Vanguard Dermatology.